More than 200,000 face impact of disability benefit cuts

More than 200,000 people face being refused all or part of their disability benefit amid a 'spike' of rejections, new figures suggest, prompting concerns over the accuracy of assessments.

Labour MP Frank Field said he had concerns about the cuts. Picture: Wikicommons
Labour MP Frank Field said he had concerns about the cuts. Picture: Wikicommons

Senior Labour MPs and a Tory are among those warning the process for assessing personal independence payments (PIP) claimants is not “up to scratch” and “pot luck”.

Figures released to Parliament show 134,000 people were awarded “zero scores” on their assessments in just six months from April to October 2016, suggesting the total 
2016-17 figure will surpass 200,000.

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Around one in seven people assessed are now thought to be awarded zero scores for both parts of the benefit.

Claimants recently awarded zero scores and denied PIP have spoken of their difficulties with the system, stating decisions have been made after just 20 minutes and benefits withdrawn despite their conditions getting worse.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said suggestions of a renewed crackdown on those looking to claim were “completely unfounded”, with more people awarded higher rates on PIP than the old system.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “The increasing numbers of ‘zero points’ assessments raise real concerns about the accuracy of the assessment process, as do the thousands upon thousands of wrong decisions that are overturned at mandatory reconsideration and in the courts.”

The House of Commons work and pensions select committee has launched its own inquiry into PIP.

Committee chairman and veteran Labour MP Frank Field said: “It begs the question of whether mandatory reconsideration really serves any purpose, is the initial assessment process up to scratch, and wouldn’t it be better to give more time for officers and better training, especially on conditions of mental health, before this is first decided.”

Mr Field added that he had heard additional concerns about growing numbers of people being given zero points after quick and short assessments.